Micronutrients are those vitamins and minerals required in very small quantities in our bodies which are essential for a number of different functions, including growth and development.
Despite requiring only trace amounts, micronutrient deficiencies are widespread, affecting approximately two billion people worldwide, the equivalent of a third of the world’s population.
Why are Micronutrients important?
Micronutrient deficiencies are commonly associated with chronic hunger, in addition to specific dietary deficits. Such deficiencies negatively impact on children’s physical growth and mental development leading to stunting, poor cognitive function and poor school performance.
Micronutrient Deficiencies are often hard to notice, but ultimately have a devastating form of malnutrition. The most common deficiencies in school-age children are due to lack of iron, vitamin A and iodine.
Iodine: Iodine deficiency in its severest form can lead to mental retardation (Iodine Deficiency Disorder), and is the main cause of preventable brain damage and reduced IQ in children worldwide. Most people need an additional source of iodine, as it is found in relatively small amounts in the diet. Children are one of the most vulnerable groups to iodine deficiency.
Read more on Iodine.
Vitamin A: Vitamin A promotes good vision, especially in low light, and its deficiency can lead to visual impairment and blindness. Not getting an adequate intake of vitamin A also impairs immune function, and can lead to infection, so in severe cases vitamin A deficiency can cause death. It is a public health problem in many low and middle income countries.
Read more on Vitamin A.
Iron: One of the major health consequences of not having sufficient iron in the diet are the knock on effects of impaired physical and cognitive development. Iron deficiency also increases the risk of morbidity in children. In many developing countries, iron deficiency and anaemia are aggravated by worm infections, malaria and other infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis.
Read more on Iron and Anaemia.
Micronutrient Documents and Resource Centre:
Further links to information on Micronutrients on schoolsandhealth:
Country Programmes on Micronutrient Supplementation
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